Preterm birth and parent–infant conversation (Coughlan et al., 2024)
Purpose: To investigate the language environments experienced by preterm-born infants, this study compared the linguistic and interactive features of parent–infant conversations involving 2-year-old preterm- and term-born infants. The study also explored how mother–infant and father–infant conversations may be differentially affected by preterm/term birth status.
Method: Twenty-two preterm-born (< 37 weeks’ gestation) and 25 term-born (≥ 37 weeks’ gestation) 2-year-old infants engaged in dyadic mother/father–infant free-play interactions that were transcribed to quantify the linguistic (parental volubility, speech rate, lexical diversity, and morphosyntactic complexity) and interactive (infant/parent responsiveness, turn-taking, and conversational balance) features of parent–infant conversations. Language, cognitive, socioemotional, and executive function skills were assessed via standardized tools.
Results: Compared to the term group, the preterm group was characterized by lower maternal speech rate, parental lexical diversity, and parent–infant turn-taking, as well as greater mother–infant conversational balance. The preterm group presented poorer language and executive function skills when compared to the term group.
Conclusions: Both similarities and differences exist between the language environments of preterm and term groups. Similarities may be due to the partial developmental catch-up of preterm-born infants (cognitive and socioemotional skills) and parental scaffolding. Differences may partly reflect a parental adaptation to the language and executive function difficulties of preterm-born infants. These findings suggest that researchers/clinicians should appraise the language environment with respect to the unique developmental needs of preterm/term-born infants. Future research directions are provided to advance a more holistic characterization of the language environment and a deeper understanding of the developmental significance of preterm–term differences in such environments.
Supplemental Material S1. Mother–infant and father–infant conversations: Spearman correlations between infant age and language environment features.
Coughlan, S., Quigley, J., & Nixon, E. (2024). The synergistic effects of preterm birth and parent gender on the linguistic and interactive features of parent–infant conversations. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_JSLHR-23-00389